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Archive for Prayer

Jan
17

What Do You Want?

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Imagine that Jesus walked into your community. Crowds are pressing around him and the disciples are trying to clear a path like a first century secret service. Now think about a need in your life that is beyond overwhelming. You’ve tried everything and everyone, but there is no relief. What would you do if Jesus came walking into your space?

Mark’s gospel tells a story about a blind man named Bartimaeus. I’ll call him Bart for short. The Bible gives few details about Bart. We know he’s blind and has to beg for money. We also are told his father’s name–Timaeus, which indicates that he may have been from a family of some means or standing in the community, perhaps meaning that they had given up on Bart. Remember, he was a beggar. When Bart heard Jesus was en route he prayed what has now become known as the “Jesus Prayer.” “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47, 48). The secret service tried to quiet Bart, but to no avail. When Jesus heard him pray he summoned him and asked a simple question. “What do you want me to do for you?”

Talk about a blank check! Bart wasn’t timid. He answered Jesus with direct precision. “I want to see!” And Jesus granted his request.

When I first read this passage last week my first thought was, “so what’s the big deal? The guy is blind. Of course he wants to see.” But as I meditate on Bart’s answer I have come to the conclusion that his request was for empowerment, not enablement. For Bart, sight was the ability to be free of dependence upon others for the things we take for granted. The ability to travel and the capacity to earn a living were wrapped in that request for sight, not to mention the chance to enjoy the beauty of creation. He could have asked to be able to have someone help him with his personal needs and for food and housing so he wouldn’t have to beg. But he wanted to be empowered. And with his new found empowerment he followed Jesus down the road (Mark 10:52).

Blind Bart is a simple lesson about prayer. Many times I find myself praying for enablement when I should be praying for empowerment. Sometimes my requests are generalized when then should be specific. And more often than I want to admit, my requests are passive instead of active, meaning they are for my own comfort and well being instead of for following Jesus and being of service to those around me. Like Bart, I want to pray for the root, and not just the fruit.

What do you want Jesus to do for you that will empower you to be who he created you to be?

Categories : Prayer
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Apr
08

Prayer for the Week

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Father, I abandon myself into your hands.

Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you, I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul.

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.

Amen

–by Charles De Foucauld

Categories : Easter, Prayer
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Lord Jesus Christ,

We are so thankful that you have said, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.”

We are thankful for the ease with which you walked upon this earth, the generosity and kindness you showed to people, the devotion with which you cared for those who were out of the way and in trouble, the extent to which you even loved your enemies and laid down your life for them.

We are so thankful to believe that this is a life for us, a life without lack; a life of sufficiency. It’s so clear in you, the sufficiency of your Father and the fullness of life that was poured through you, and we’re so thankful that you have promised the same love, the same life, the same joy, and the same power for us.

Lord, slip up on us today. Get past our defenses, our worries, our concerns. Gently open our souls and speak your word into them. We believe you want to do it, and we wait for you to do it now.

In your name, Amen

Categories : Prayer
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Mar
12

Working Sacramental Miracles

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“The Kingdom of God deals not only with the immortal soul of mortals, but with their bodies, their nourishment, their homes, their cleanliness, and it makes those who serve these fundamental needs of life veritable ministers of God. Are they not serving the common good? Are they not working sacramental miracles by cooperating with that mysterious power which satisfies the want of every living thing by making the grain and tree to grow? If they do their job well, that job itself is their chief ministry to others and part of their worship to God. Whenever they strive to increase their serviceableness to humanity, they make another advance toward the Kingdom of God.”

“We praise thee, O God, for our friends, the doctors and nurses who seek the healing of our bodies. We bless thee for their gentleness and patience, for their knowledge and skill. Make thou our doctors the prophets and soldiers of thy kingdom, which is the reign of cleanliness and self-restraint and the dominion of health and joyous life. Strengthen in their whole profession the consciousness that their calling is holy and they they, too, are disciples of the saving Christ. Amen.” — Walter Rauschenbusch, as quoted by Dennis L. Johnson, To Live in God.

Categories : Prayer
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Jan
03

A Prayer Before Study

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Ante Studium

A Prayer Before Study by Saint Thomas Aquinas

Ineffable Creator,

Who, from the treasures of your wisdom,

has established three hierarchies of angels,

has arrayed them in marvelous order

above the fiery heaven,

And has marshaled the regions

of the universe with such artful skill,

You are proclaimed

the true font of light and wisdom,

and the primal origin

raised high above all things.

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness

into the darkened places of my mind;

Disperse from my soul

the twofold darkness

into which I was born:

sin and ignorance.

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.

Refine my speech

and pour forth upon my lips

the goodness of your blessing.

Grant to me keenness of mind,

Capacity to remember,

Skill in learning,

Subtlety to interpret,

and eloquence in speech.

May you guide

the beginning of my work,

Direct its progress,

and bring it to completion.

You Who are true God and true Man,

Who live and reign, world without end.

Amen.

Categories : Bible Study, Prayer
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Sep
24

The Lord’s Prayer: Part 1

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How would you define prayer? Perhaps the simplest way to understand prayer is to view it as communication with God. I prefer the word communication because it involves both the sending and receiving of messages. Yes, prayer is talking to God, but it also includes listening to God.

So what is the goal of prayer? The goal of prayer is communion with God. Communion is the end achieved by the means of communication. Done well, communication will draw two people together. This is why relationship experts encourage couples to talk with one another. The more communication there is, the closer the two come together. If the two continue to come together they begin to share a common language and understanding. Their hearts intertwine and become one and they find union.

So think of prayer as communication with God, that leads to communion with God, which results in
union with God. Notice that the commonality of the three words is the “uni,” or the oneness. That’s what we hope to achieve when we pray. Rather than considering the goal of prayer as asking for stuff with the hope of receiving it, we should think of prayer’s goal in terms of the alignment of our hearts with God’s heart.

In Luke 11:1-4, Jesus offers some helpful advice on undertaking our practice of prayer. Here are five simple lessons.

First, prayer is a learned activity. “Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray just a John taught his disciples’” (Luke 11:1).
The disciples must have been impressed by what they saw and heard from Jesus’ prayer life. So impressed that this is the only thing the Bible records that Jesus asked him to teach them. The disciples requested, “Lord, teach us to pray,” not “Lord, teach us a prayer.” Jesus gave them the Lord’s Prayer to serve as a blueprint for us to develop a rich and balanced prayer life. The Lord’s Prayer is the framework upon which we offer our prayers not unlike the alphabet serves to create words, sentences and stories.

Second, we learn to pray by praying. I remember taking a driver’s education course in high school. We watched movies, read manuals and listened to lectures. But the day eventually came when we were required to climb behind the steering wheel and actually drive a car. Prayer is like that. We can read books or listen to inspiring speakers talk about prayer, but the bottom line is that we only learn to pray by actually praying.

Third, we pray on the basis of relationship. The Lord’s Prayer begins by addressing God as “Father.” The Greek word for father is pater, as in paternity. The Aramaic word for father is abba, which would be the equivalent to papa. In America we would use the word daddy. The point here is that we do not pray to a distant, impersonal deity. We pray to a close, personal God with whom we have a relationship. Understanding the nearness of our relationship with God gives prayer a different dimension.

Fourth, Jesus taught that we are to pray God’s agenda first. We are to pray for God’s name to be kept holy, for his Kingdom to come and his will to be done before we pray anything else. Why? It is because God’s agenda shapes our agenda. If we pray our agenda first, it will be shaped by what we want instead of what we need. When our hearts find union with God and his agenda, then we can more appropriately ask for our daily needs to be met, find forgiveness through confession and protection against temptation.

Finally, what we pray for ourselves we are to pray for others. The pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer are all plural, not singular. Yes, we are to pray for ourselves. But prayer is incomplete if it is not offered on behalf of those around us.

Categories : Prayer
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Jun
09

The Serenity Prayer

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Many of you are familiar with the short version of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer. Recently I became familiar with the complete version, which I have found to be helpful. I hope that it will encourage you as it has me.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;

Taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;

Trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to you will;

So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy in the next.

Amen.

Categories : Prayer
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Oct
14

Applying 1 John:: 1

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Keeping in Stride

The first half of the fifth chapter of 1 John summarizes the theological arguments of the book. Here, John explains that genuine faith is composed of three elements: belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God; love for one’s Christian brothers and sisters; and obedience to God’s commands. If one or two of those elements are missing, one’s faith is incomplete.

The result of genuine faith is “life in the son” (1 John 5:11-12). As children of God we can be confident that we have life in the son (1 John 5:13). The theological argument is complete. Now what do we do with what we’ve learned? How is it applied and fleshed out in everyday life?

John provides three final points of application as he concludes chapter 5. Each corresponds with a key element of faith, the first of which is believing prayer.

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for” (1 John 5:14-15, NLT).

John’s emphasis in these verses is that those who possess genuine faith can have confidence in approaching God in prayer. Our confidence is not based on our goodness, but on the goodness of God. The temptation we face is to take verses like these and turn them into a formula that guarantees we will get what we want from God. But notice how God’s response is conditioned. We must ask in accordance to his will. If we ask according to his will, he hears us. The word “hear” means that God will listen favorably. If God hears a request that is in accordance to his will, he will grant it.

John R.W. Stott wrote these words about this text: “Prayer is not so much getting God to agree with us as it is subordinating our will to his. It is the process of prayer where we seek God will, embrace it and align ourselves to it.”

Sometimes I hear people say that prayer changes things. I think a better way to think of prayer is that prayer changes the pray-er.

So how does God answer prayer? I’m thankful for Bill Hybels’ answer. According to Hybels, If the request is wrong, God says, “no.” If the timing is wrong, God says, “slow.” If my spiritual condition is wrong, God says, “grow.” But when the request is right, the timing is right, and my spiritual condition is right, God says, “go!” The request is granted.

Tomorrow I’ll take up the second application, loving carefrontation. (That’s not a typo!)

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heart.tree

Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Then Jesus left them a second time and prayed, “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken awayg unless I drink it, your will be done.” When he returned to them again, he found them sleeping, for they couldn’t keep their eyes open. So he went to pray a third time, saying the same things again. Then he came to the disciples and said, “Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going. Look, my betrayer is here!” (Matthew 26:36-46, NLT)

One cannot help but notice struggle Jesus experienced coming to terms with the cross. Just as the crushing press would be lowered three times on the olives, Jesus prayed three times. His prayer is simple yet sustained, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

The cup Jesus mentions is a reference to his crucifixion. If he drinks the cup he dies. If he does not drink the cup, we die. Can Jesus accept the Father’s will? His will is for the cup to pass. But the Father’s will is for him to drink the cup. I believe that the thing that enabled Jesus to accept the cup and drink it was his trust in the Father. Reason and rationale became secondary to his trust in God. In the words of my friend Tom Clegg, “You do not have a relationship unless your will can be crossed.” Clearly Jesus relationship with the Father is strong and his trust in the Father carries him through, in spite of what he knows.

We can identify with Jesus’ struggle. Adversity strikes and the challenges become difficult, often without notice. God does not ask us to “approve of” those things. But he may require that we accept those things. Our ability to accept adversity and grow through it is directly tied to our level of trust in God. Jesus was able to trust the Father in prayer because trust and prayer had been a habitual part of his entire earthly life. What if Jesus had never breathed a prayer until that dark night in Gethsemene? We cannot develop trust if the only time we pray is on the eve of crisis. Trust is cultivated through the daily disciplines of prayer, study, worship and reflection.

Categories : Gardens, Jesus, Prayer
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heart.tree

The warm light and brilliant colors of the Garden of Eden and the Garden of En Gedi give way to the darkness of the third biblical garden in my series, the Garden of Gethsemene. Gethsemene is an important garden because we immediately associate it with agony and suffering. It is not physical bodily suffering. That would come later in the chronology. Nonetheless, the suffering of Gethsemene is emotional, mental, and deeply spiritual.

I think Gethsemene is important because Jesus never appears more real and approachable than he is in that setting. Any doubts of his humanity are quickly erased as we try to understand what he experienced. If nothing else, we can at least appreciate his struggle, for in many ways his struggle is our struggle. The suffering of Gethsemene preceeds the suffering of Golgatha. I think it is, in a sense, the death before the death.

The word Gethsemene means “oil press.” In biblical times, olives were raised for their oil, and wherever you found an olive grove you could be sure to find an olive press nearby. The olives would be harvested and placed in a basket atop a flat surface. Then, a massive stone would be lowered onto the olives crushing them so that their precious oil could be extracted. This process would be repeated three times. The first rendering would produce the best oil. The final press would produce the poorest oil that would be used for fuel for lamps. This is important to our understanding of the text that I’ll get into tomorrow.

In the mean time, I pray that this week would be more than just another week. I pray that during each day of holy week you’ll experience Christ in a new, fresh way.

Categories : Gardens, Jesus, Prayer
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